The Pressure to be a Perfect Yogini

Erica Rodefer Winters is tired of the "super yoginis" out there who make life look effortless. Where are the real examples of people who use the practice to make their normal ol' lives a little better?

For a practice that promotes self-acceptance, there sure is a lot of pressure to be perfect within the yoga community. Just look at the Facebook feeds of the “super yogis” out there and you’ll see not just amazing yoga poses, but amazing food, fabulous clothing, and a schedule so full of travel and adventure, it can feel exhausting just observing from your iPad screen.

The message? It’s not enough to use your yoga practice to help you cope with the daily demands of a regular ol’, boring life. Nope. We should also be glowingly healthy, buoyantly happy, and environmentally, socially, spiritually conscious beings devoted to making the world a better place—every minute of every day. Oh, and look ah-mazing throughout it all—au natural, of course.

If you believe the social media profiles of these über practitioners, you’d think that they roll out of bed every morning at 5am to meditate and practice yoga for a couple of hours before they start their day. Then they drink a smoothie full of miracle foods. They follow a strict but “yummy” diet of raw, organic, locally sourced, gluten-free, vegan fare that they buy fresh from the farmer’s market every week. They have perfect, stress-free careers where they make a positive impact on the world, and with schedules that allow them to do a lot of yoga classes and workshops. And they must make a lot of money doing it, because they take a lot of vacations to practice yoga in exotic locations. Of course, when they’re not practicing in a bikini on the beach, they’re living their yoga by raising money and awareness for some nonprofit. But that’s not enough to keep them busy either. So they train for marathons, climb mountains, surf, grow vegetables in their backyards, and brew their own kombucha. Come winter, when they’re not warming their bones in tropical locales, they bake bread, knit, read voraciously, and drink a lot of herbal tea.

If someone like this exists in real life, I’d like to shake her hand. Then, I’d like to ask a few questions on behalf of stressed out, over-extended, exhausted yoga students everywhere. First of all, what are you REALLY putting in those smoothies that gives you so much energy? (Don’t say kale. If you say kale, I might scream.) Do you ever sleep, snap at a loved one, or eat a few too many cupcakes? Did you forget how delicious gluten and sugar taste? Between all your yoga, traveling, cooking, and DIY hobbies, when do you have time to look up inspirational quotes to share with us?

On a more serious note, do you really follow all the advice you give about slowing down, doing less, and resting when you need it? I suspect you do, actually, or you wouldn’t be able to sustain the pace you show to the world. I’d like to see more photos of that part of your life please, because I don’t need any more ideas for my to-do list—no matter how healthy or good-for-the-world these tasks might be. I need to be reminded that sometimes it is more beneficial to my health to spend my time watching a movie on the couch, sleeping in, eating a delicious meal with my friends or family without worrying about the ingredients used to make it. I need to be reminded that my yoga teachers and other yogis out there also struggle with juggling it all, and that sometimes it’s wiser to just let the balls drop, forgive ourselves for causing our own unnecessary suffering, and commit to trying to be kinder and more loving to ourselves in the future. The practice starts there—and everything else is just icing on the gluten-free, agave nectar-sweetened, superfood cake.